As the old adage goes, do one thing every day that scares you. And that's pretty much how it began.
What started as a “let’s stay close to shore” excursion quickly turned into my first, long distance, open water, channel crossing of North America’s longest and deepest fjord.
Juneau has been blessed with spectacular weather this month, so I jumped at the chance to join my friend and internationally acclaimed, award-winning nature photographer, Daniel Buck, on a kayaking trip north of Alaska’s capital city.
Initially, I just wanted to get a seal’s eye view of the spot I had camped at a few weeks earlier. But as we paddled along the foreboding granite cliffs high above our 14 foot kayaks, the surge of adrenalin was unmistakable. My mind encouraged me to “just go for it.” And so it began. Baby steps transformed into leaps of faith which led to an unforgettable adventure of a lifetime.
We found ourselves leaving the protected cove and venturing out into open water. Little did I know at the time, but our kayaks were cruising above the historic shipwreck site of the SS Princess Kathleen, a steamship that met her dark watery grave just 63 years prior.
Unfazed, we scanned the horizon for the jubilant exhale of humpback whales, occasionally spotting playful harbor porpoises close by. With this remarkable encounter alone, my trepidation and fear of the unknown subsided.
As the waves catapulted us closer and closer to our wilderness destination, at one point with my rookie hand I felt the tide taking my kayak in one direction, the wind pulling me in another. Powering through, we arrived at the shores of Shelter Island after an ambitious and arm-clinching paddle. Completely worth it.
Securing the boats above the tide-line, we scrambled along the rugged and rocky shore to gain a higher vantage point on the ocean landscape we had just traversed. The first half of the journey was now complete, though it felt like a journey just beginning.
After some time exploring the island's unprotected eastern shores and doing a bit of beach-combing, we paddled back to the mainland, surrounded by God’s wonderland stretching as far as the eye can see.
As the sun set behind the majestic snow-capped peaks, the waters we had just conquered were bathed in the warm glow of the golden hour. During a particularly Zen-like moment, I paused in the middle of the waterway, letting the silence of the world engulf me, comforted only by the presence of nature and the sound of the cerulean waves gently lapping the boat.
There, at sunset, as the small kayak gently rode the ocean swells, I had a revelation. Growing up in Alabama, I lived an unexceptional life. Now in Alaska, I am living a life without exception - a life where each day I do one thing that scares me, strengthens me, and fulfills me. Where each day is nothing less than an epic adventure, all in America’s Last Frontier.